March 30, 2023

Indigenous Pathways Program makes a difference for Schulich students

Offering part of engineering school's new strategic plan, Schulich Momentum: Enhancing Community, Expanding Impact
Donovan Praymayer
Donovan Praymayer says the Indigenous Pathways Program has been life-changing. Joe McFarland, Schulich School of Engineering

Donovan Praymayer knew he needed a change in his life.

Feeling overworked and underpaid as a chef for 10 years, he started mulling his potential career opportunities. He knew he wanted to go back to school; he just didn’t know what he wanted to take.

“I realized I’m not going to wake up one day and just know what I want to do,” says Praymayer. “I needed to start doing something — anything — with school to figure it out.”

Just three days after coming to that realization, his mother told him about the Indigenous Pathways Program at the Schulich School of Engineering, and he felt like it might be the fit he was looking for.

The program is a key part of Indigenous Engagement, Inclusivity and Reconciliation — one of the four pillars of Schulich’s new strategic plan, Schulich Momentum: Enhancing Community, Expanding Impact.

The right resources to be successful

Born and raised in Calgary by two engineers, Praymayer says he has always liked math and science, learning how the world works, and problem-solving.

His family is originally from the Fond du Lac region in northern Saskatchewan and is of Dene/Cree ancestry, with his mother also being a part of the Sixties Scoop, during which thousands of Indigenous children were taken from their homes by the child-welfare system.

Having been out of the classroom for the better part of a decade, Praymayer says he had forgotten most of his technical knowledge from high school and hadn’t used things like the quadratic formula while he was a chef. But applying to Schulich felt like a natural choice, he says, especially with the resources being made available to him.

“The Indigenous Pathways Program has been pivotal to my successful transition to post-secondary education,” Praymayer says. “It’s been great getting the extra academic support with a smaller tutoring group, much smaller classes for the foundations courses and general support from the Writing Symbols Lodge."

With great power comes great responsibility

It’s that kind of successful transition that has become the pride of people involved in the program, like PhD candidate and research assistant Haoming Ma.

Having been involved with it since September 2022, he says it has been a great opportunity to watch the students grow, both professionally and personally.

“I am a follower of the Peter Parker principle – ‘With great power comes great responsibility,’” Ma says, referring to the famous creed of Parker's heoic alter ego, Spider-Man. “To me, making a difference in the students’ lives means a greater responsibility.”

Ma says he’s grateful for the time he’s already been able to spend in the classroom, as he hopes to not only set help the students with their studies, but also to pursue degrees based on their interest, which he believes will improve their confidence in school and in life.

Putting in the work

Praymayer is hoping his experience with the program will help inspire other Indigenous students to apply and study at the University of Calgary.

He says it will be a lot of work, but it will also be all worth it in the end.

“You get what you put into it,” Praymayer says.

If you work hard, do all of your assignments, study effectively and connect with your professors if you’re struggling, you will likely be successful in your academic career.

He says he has learned a lot in the short time he has been at Schulich, and already has plenty of advice for those students looking to chase after their dreams. He says it starts with being kind to yourself, even if things don’t go your way right away.

“Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and continue putting forth your best self,” Praymayer says. “Failing isn’t falling, it’s a stepping stone towards success — you only ever fail if you give up.”

The Schulich School of Engineering has launched its new strategic plan, Schulich Momentum: Enhancing Community, Expanding Impact. One of those pillars — Indigenous Engagement, Inclusivity and Reconciliation — weaves Indigenous ways of being, knowing, connecting and doing into the fabric of our school’s culture.

In alignment with the University of Calgary’s Indigenous Strategy, ii’ taa’poh’to’p, the Indigenous Pathways Program encourage Indigenous Peoples to study at Schulich while fostering an Indigenous-centred community in which students are provided with the requisite supports that promote their skill development, well-being and success as engineering scholars.

Sign up for UToday

Sign up for UToday

Delivered to your inbox — a daily roundup of news and events from across the University of Calgary's 14 faculties and dozens of units

Thank you for your submission.